Tuesday, the 2019 Alabama legislature met for the organization session for the new quadrennium. The new legislature was formally sworn in and elected its leadership for the next four years.
State Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, was elected as Speaker of the House for another four years without any opponent. McCutcheon was nominated by State Representative Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, and Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, seconded the motion.
Rep. Rowe said that McCutcheon came into the Speaker’s office, “Under difficult and highly publicized circumstances.”
Rowe praised the job that McCutcheon has done and added, “For all of us God has a plan and Mac has found his mission.”
The House overwhelmingly voted to elect McCutcheon and he was sworn in by Speaker of the House Emeritus Seth Hammett (D). McCutcheon thanked the legislature for his election.
“Let me begin by thanking you for the trust and confidence you have placed in me with this election as Speaker of the House,” Speaker McCutcheon said. “Since first assuming this office a few years ago, I have tried hard to preside in a manner that is as fair and impartial as the good Lord above will allow me. You have my promise that the same fairness and impartiality will be in evidence over the next four years.”
“Before I became Speaker, I served as the House Rules Chairman, a position that I enjoyed,” McCutcheon continued. “It was also one that taught me a deep respect for the legislative process and instilled in me a determination to let it work as it was intended. As a legislator you have two choices before you. You can choose to be guided primarily by your own ambitions, desires, and personal interests, or you can choose to be led by a desire to make Alabama a better place for the constituents you represent.”
“In other words, you can choose to be a flash in the pan, or you can build a lasting legacy of goodwill, trust, integrity, and sound policy,” McCutcheon added. “I’ve made my decision and hope you make the same choice. The members in this chamber will not always agree on everything, and there will be moments of tension and discord. At those difficult moments, do not turn your back and walk away in anger. Instead, come to the table, negotiate in good faith, and help work out the differences.”
“To the new members who will cast their first vote today, let me give you a piece of advice. It’s the key to success in this body, and it can be summed up in one word – relationships,” McCutcheon said. “Get to know your fellow members, develop a foxhole friendship during the legislative battles that are sure to come, always have their back and ask that they always have yours in return. If you develop these relationships, do your homework on the issues, and ask questions you think are in need of being asked during debates – you will be successful in this body. “
McCutcheon emphasized his intent to raise money for infrastructure improvements.
“I want this quadrennium to be defined by four simple words – Building a better Alabama,” McCutcheon continued. “That’s not just a phrase. It’s not just a goal. I want it to be our mission. Our state is already great in many ways, but we are going to use the next four years to literally build a better Alabama for all of its citizens. Building a better Alabama means building better roads and better bridges so Alabamians can travel safely and conveniently and businesses can transport their goods without needless delay. Our sister southeastern states have already taken action to address their transportation needs, and we will quickly fall behind them if we do not act now.”
“Building a better Alabama means building an even better economy with even more jobs and opportunity so every individual who is able to work can work,” McCutcheon told the members. “Alabama already ranks among the nation’s leaders in industrial recruitment and job growth, but I believe we can do even better. Building a better Alabama means building a better education system so all of our children and grandchildren can reach their full potential and one day compete for high-paying, long-lasting 21st Century jobs. Building a better Alabama means building a better standard of ethics that embraces commonsense guidelines while ensuring officials who violate the public trust feel the firm hand of justice and the sharp pain of punishment. The items I have outlined offer us a difficult, complicated, and ambitious mission, but as I look out at all of you today, I am confident it is one we can accomplish together. So let us all agree – Republican and Democrat alike – that the mission to build a better Alabama begins right here, right now, in this chamber.”
“In closing, let me say that I am a man of faith and grace,” McCutcheon concluded. “I believe each of us has been put in a position of leadership to accomplish God’s will, and each one of us has been chosen for a purpose. We are here to govern with honor, and we are here to follow the rule of law. We are here to serve the people of Alabama to the very best of our abilities…so help us God. Thank you for this honor you have given me today.”
Rep. McCutcheon was elected 98 to 1. Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, was the lone “No” vote.
The Republican Party has a commanding 77 to 28 super majority following the 2018 election.
McCutcheon was first elected Speaker of the House in July 2016 after Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was forced to vacate the position following his conviction on twelve felony counts of violating the state’s ethics law.
McCutcheon is a retired law enforcement officer.
The 2019 regular legislative session will begin in March.
Alabama lawmaker pre-files legislation to allow removal of Confederate monuments
If passed, the measure would permit counties and cities to relocate historic monuments currently located on public property.
Alabama State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, introduced legislation this week in advance of the 2021 legislative session that, if passed, would permit counties and cities to relocate historic monuments currently located on public property. Givan’s bill, HB8, would also provide for the relocation of historic memorials to sites appropriate for public display.
“Across the state of Alabama, citizens are calling for the removal of prominently placed statues and monuments that are insensitive or offensive to the communities that surround them,” Givan said. “City and county governments must be able to address the demands of their citizens. This legislation provides a tool for local governments to safely remove these artifacts so that they can be moved to a site more appropriate for preserving or displaying the historical monument.”
Removing the monuments and historical markers is currently illegal under Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act, which the state Legislature passed in 2017. Givan has been an outspoken opponent of that Republican-sponsored legislation. In 2018, Givan introduced a measure to repeal the bill that barred the removal of monuments.
“I believe HB8 can achieve bipartisan support,” Givan said. “My bill seeks to balance the wishes of the people. It respects the will of communities that want the monuments removed. It also respects those who wish to preserve history. With this legislation, Confederate monuments could be relocated to a public site, like Confederate Memorial Park, whose purpose and mission is to interpret and tell these stories. When the Legislature convenes, I hope to have the support of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
If enacted, HB8 would permit county and municipal governments to remove memorial monuments, including permanent statues, portraits and markers, located on public property in their jurisdictions. It would require a transfer of ownership of the removed monuments to the Alabama Department of Archives and History or the Alabama Historical Commission. Finally, the bill would instruct Archives and History or the Historical Commission to maintain and display monuments removed by local authorities in a location accessible for public display.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of Confederate monuments and memorials across the country, released an update to its Whose Heritage report, which tracks symbols of the Confederacy on public land across the United States. They report at least 30 Confederate symbols have been removed or relocated since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.
These include 24 monuments removed, 5 monuments relocated and the Mississippi state flag replaced. Since the Charleston church shooting in 2015, 115 total symbols have been removed from public spaces. These include 87 monuments that have been removed or relocated from public spaces. At least 78 monuments were removed and nine were relocated.
SPLC says there are still nearly 1,800 Confederate symbols on public land, and 739 of those symbols are monuments. The SPLC has prepared an “action guide” to help community activists target Confederate historical markers and memorials for removal.
President Donald Trump has denounced what he calls “cancel culture” that seeks to remove historical monuments and statutes.
“There is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure,” Trump said. “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”
Marsh’s budget hearing compared to revenge porn
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has scheduled a general fund budget hearing for early July — purportedly to prepare for the 2021 Legislative Session that begins in February.
But that is not the real reason for the budget hearing, according to Senate insiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid provoking Marsh. The actual purpose of public hearings, according to multiple sources, is to try to find a way to embarrass Gov. Kay Ivey.
In a press release from his office, Marsh says the budget meetings will focus on funding prison reform and rural broadband.
However, an agenda circulated for a July 9 budget committee meeting obtained by APR makes no mention of broadband and focuses entirely on the Ivey administration’s spending.
In the press release, Marsh said that the budget hearing is needed to address “a potential $2 billion-dollar prison reform proposal.”
But according to the Governor’s Office and published reports about Ivey’s prison reform plan, there is no mention of a $2 billion proposal as Marsh claims.
He also states that the other reason for the hearings is to address “a stunning lack of rural broadband investment.” However, broadband is not an item on the agenda.
Marsh’s enmity toward Ivey was on full display in the days after the governor revealed his “Wish list” in May, to spend federal relief money on a variety of projects only vaguely related to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to those who regularly interact with the Senate, he is still angry that Ivey exposed his plan to appropriate nearly $1.9 billion in federal relief money to finance pet projects, which included spending $200 million on a new State House.
The money the state received under the CARES Act was to be allocated to shore up business, citizens’ interests and institutions ravage by the shutdown due to the spread of COVID-19.
First, Marsh denied the existence of a “wish list,” then he said Ivey asked for it, and finally, he took ownership of the list and said he thought $200 million for a new State House is a “good idea.”
For weeks after the debacle, Marsh aided by some Senate Republicans tried to spin what happened without success.
Marsh had also wanted to use $800 million in CARES Act funds to build out rural broadband and had reportedly hoped to use the budget meeting to push his broadband plan forward.
Ivey blocked his plan to use CARES Act funds for pork projects and convinced the Legislature to reject Marsh’s preferred budget in favor of Ivey’s executive amendment.
“First Ivey made him look greedy and foolish and then she turned most of the Legislature against him,” said one of APR‘s sources.
Recently, Ivey was once again a step ahead of Marsh when just days after he announced his July budget hearings to consider broadband expansion, Ivey released her plan to spend $300 million on rural broadband, stealing his thunder.
According to APR‘s Senate sources, Ivey’s latest move was another blow to Marsh’s ego.
“Del, [Marsh] has power, but he’s never had to deal with a governor who knows how to counter him,” said another Senate insider.
Another regular observer of Marsh said, his latest move to hold budget hearings is akin to “revenge porn.”
“She dumped him, and now he wants to get even, sounds a lot like revenge porn to me,” the source said.
At the July hearing, Ivey Administration officials will be questioned on CARES Act spending, budgets for the department of corrections and pardons and parole.
Finance Director, Kelly Butler, will testify to what CARES funds have been spent and what remains.
ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn will be queried on several issues, including hiring, overtime pay, prison construction, and Holman prison’s status and personnel.
Pardons and Paroles Commissioner, Charles Graddick, will face the committee to discuss personnel costs, equipment purchases with an “emphasis upon computers, software, vehicles, office furniture and other substantial expenditures,” according to the document.
Lastly, the committee will question Personnel Department Director, Jackie Graham, to give an account for DOC and ABP&P personnel growth plans.
While it is wholly within the Legislature’s purview to approve and exercise oversight of government spending, this is not what the budget hearings are about according to APR’s sources.
According to several Senate insiders and others with knowledge of Marsh’s thinking, this is a move to paint Ivey’s administration as “out of control on spending.”
“This is a trap Marsh hopes to use for PR, but what if there’s nothing to see, how does he spin it,” asked an individual with close ties to the administration. “She’s kicked his tail before; she’ll likely do it again,” the source said.
Senate pro tem requests general fund committee begin hearings in July
Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, announced today that he has asked Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Range, to begin holding General Fund Committee meetings in preparation for the next session.
In an effort to be better prepared because of uncertainty in state revenue as a result of COVID-19 pandemic Senator Albritton has agreed with Senator Marsh and has invited Legislative Services, the Department of Finance, Pardons and Paroles, Corrections and the Personnel Department to provide updates to the committee.
“Typically, we begin this process closer to sessions however because of uncertainty about state income and possibility of special sessions, we felt like it was important to get started much earlier than usual in this process,” Senator Albritton said. “The Legislature has done an excellent job managing our budgets over the past few years. So much so that Alabama was able to weather the storm of the COVID-19 shutdown this year with little impact to our vital state services. We understand that we will not have final revenue projections until after July 15th, but we must continue to do our due diligence and ensure that we use taxpayer money sensibly.”
“We want to make sure that all public money is being used wisely, now and in the future,” Senator Marsh said. “We have many pressing issues facing the state such as a potential $2 billion-dollar prison reform proposal and a stunning lack of rural broadband investment which need to be addressed whenever the Legislature is back in session and it is our duty to make sure we are prepared and kept up to speed on these matters. Furthermore, the taxpayers deserve a clear and transparent view of how their money is being used.”
The hearings are scheduled to begin July 9 in the Alabama State House.
Part-time employee in lieutenant governor’s office tests positive for COVID-19
A part-time employee in Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth’s office, who the office said works only a handful of hours each week, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, according to a press statement.
The employee, whose work area is separated from the rest of the staff, last worked in the office on the morning of Thursday, June 18.
All members of the office staff have been tested or are in the process of being tested for COVID-19 in response, and, thus far, no additional positive results have been reported.
In addition, the State House suite has been thoroughly cleaned and will remain closed until all employees’ test results have been returned.
Employees are working remotely from home, and phones are being answered in order to continue providing services to the citizens who need them.